As I have been choosing my different proposal ideas, my specific topic for my white paper has changed and morphed slightly. I knew for a fact that I wanted to do something with regards to the Copyright Laws and their effect on the music industry but I didn’t know what specifically. My second proposal dealt with mashup music and how they relate to Copyright laws. With my third proposal I’ll be diving into mashup music once again and how it falls within the ideas of “fair use”. By the end of this blog post I will be stating my probable topic/thesis for my white paper, but is still subject to change.
There is no specific “Fair Use Act” but instead is a part of the Copyright Act of 1976 in which it states the terms of fair use. This idea of fair use basically explains “what you can legally do with it, a work under copyright protection, and how you may use it,” as explained by the Public Domain Information Project (PDIP). This means that even though works may be under copyright protection (like music) they can still be legally used in certain ways. The four considerations as to whether or not the use is legal are as follows and taken straight from the Copyright.gov website:
- The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
- The nature of the copyrighted work
- The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
- The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work
Now where does mashup music come into play with the fair use act? Most mashup artists do not get permission from the original artists to use their tracks which technically puts them in a position to be sued. This is because, as the PDIP states, “the rumors that it is OK to use so many notes or so many bars are just not true.” Mashup artsits technically have no legal standing within the matter.
Or do they?
As I pointed out in my last proposal, famous mashup artist Greg Gillis (aka Girl Talk) has stated that the mashups he makes are “roughly the equivalent of taking a familiar Beatle’s melody on your guitar and rearranging the notes and putting a new guitar pedal sound on it and calling it your own song.” He would point out that the way he uses songs are within the terms of “fair use” even though it is not listed as one of the examples of fair use put forth by US courts.
Copyright.gov does go on to say though that “Copyright protects the particular way authors have expressed themselves.” They specifically state the ”particular way” and mashup artists would easily be able to argue that they are expressing this work in a completely new way that the original artist would have never even considered.
In fact, the music industry has yet to bring up a lawsuit against Girl Talk or any other mashup artist for that matter because they are, for the most part, afraid to lose. Many of them are afraid to go up against such artists as there are many lawyers who have been studying and analyzing the use of sampling based music for years and are prepared to jump at the chance to win against the music industries. This would open up all new problems if they were to lose such a case.
I have many other reasons to back my claims as to why mashup artists have a case for the fair use act and this is what I want to focus my white paper on. I will be discussing and attempting to prove why copyright laws and “fair use” ideas should be updated for modern times and why mashup artists are protected by such laws even now.